A 3D-printing company is aiding NASA by using its additive manufacturing technology to create an accurate replica of a meteorite located 34 million miles from Earth.
Measuring approximately 2 feet in length, the meteorite known as Block Island was first discovered on Mars by the Exploration Rover Opportunity in 2009. Studying it is an important part of furthering our knowledge about Mars and other planets, but at present the prospect of bringing it to Earth to examine u close is out of the question.
Fortunately, the Mars rover was able to take images and measurements to transmit back home, and this data has now been used by Mcor Technologies, an Ireland-based 3D-printing company, to create an almost life-size Block Island model.
“Block Island is the largest meteorite yet found on Mars,” Conor MacCormack, Mcor’s CEO, told Digital Trends. “It is an iron-nickel meteorite about the size of a small ice chest, weighing approximately a half-ton. 3D printing a life-size replica makes it quick and affordable to produce and light to transport.
“Additionally, printing the model in full color — an application integral to our process — to match the actual rock’s color provides a photorealistic sample, the next best thing to bringing back a real Martian meteorite. Our team is trying to help further space exploration by keeping research costs low while still maintaining a high level of accuracy of the models for scientists to study and teachers to use when teaching future space explorers.”
The 3D model of Block Island was printed in paper, making it impressively lightweight. Mcor also used a color map from the original rover data to ensure that the color in the finished model was accurate to the color in the 3D digital file. In all, the printing process took just 30 hours to complete. For those keeping score, that’s considerably less than the amount of time a mission to Mars would require.
After all, why go to Mars when 3D printing can bring Mars to us?